Concept of leaving property to someone else

Can I Leave Property to a Non-Citizen?

The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC  Sept. 1, 2023

Whenever someone seeks to create an estate plan to officially document their wishes for their property when they pass away, they obviously want to be able to give their belongings to anyone they choose. But what if someone to whom they would like to leave the property is not a U.S. citizen? Is it legal to leave something to them? What are the parameters for leaving property to a non-citizen? 

Answering these questions is an important element in estate planning for many people. By working with a skilled estate planning attorney, you can have your questions answered and receive the knowledgeable legal guidance you need to build a detailed and comprehensive estate plan.  

If you’re located in the Redlands area or anywhere throughout Southern California—including Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, or Palm Springs—contact The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC to schedule a consultation and discuss your estate planning needs. 

Property Inheritance for Non-Citizens

If you are wondering if you can legally leave your property to someone who is not a U.S. citizen, the simple answer is yes. It is perfectly legal to leave assets to non-citizen beneficiaries the same way you can leave them to U.S. citizens. There are, however, certain details you will want to address as you work with an attorney to make sure your affairs are in order according to your wishes. 


One of the more significant differences between leaving gifts to citizens and non-citizens is in regard to the federal gift tax. Whereas gifts left to spouses who are U.S. citizens are exempt from the gift tax, gifts left to spouses who are not citizens are only exempt up to an amount of $175,000. 


For tax purposes, even an individual who is not a U.S. citizen is still listed as a “U.S. person.” This is done because, under U.S. income tax rules, a “U.S. person” is anyone who is either a U.S. citizen or a U.S. resident. For more detailed guidance regarding how a non-citizen beneficiary in your estate plan is affected by taxes, contact a skilled estate planning attorney. 

Leaving Real Estate Property to a Non-Citizen

If assets you intend to leave to a non-citizen beneficiary include real estate property, one of the more effective methods to transfer ownership of high-value assets (such as real estate) to a non-citizen is a qualified domestic trust (known as a QDOT). 

Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT)

As mentioned above, under normal circumstances, a non-citizen spouse’s tax-exempt inheritance is limited. By using a QDOT, however, can help a non-citizen spouse qualify for the same unlimited marital deduction as spouses who are U.S. citizens. 

To learn more about QDOTs, how they work, and how they can benefit individuals with non-citizen spouses, read about them in more detail here

Why You Need an Attorney

With so much complexity wrapped up in estate planning laws — particularly when it involves factors related to citizenship status — your best option is to work with a law firm that is well-versed in all aspects of estate planning. From your initial meeting to discuss your options and throughout the process, you can have confidence that your attorney will lead you in the right direction

Practical & Purposeful Legal Counsel

Making sure your affairs are in order and your loved ones are provided for if anything happens to you is one of the most important things you can do. In order to create a sound estate plan that meets your unique needs and prepares for a wide range of potential scenarios, you need the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

At The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC, you can count on a dedicated team of legal professionals to provide you with the trusted counsel you need to make the best decisions for your family’s future. If you are looking for guidance regarding your estate plan in Redlands, or the surrounding Southern California areas of Palm Springs, Rancho Cucamonga, or Riverside, reach out today to schedule a consultation.